Heatstroke in rabbits

As the weather continues to warm up, it's really important to make sure your rabbits can keep cool.

All bunnies are at risk of getting heatstroke. Follow our advice to stop your rabbits overheating and find out what to do if you think they may have heatstroke.

 

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke happens when our pets get too hot; this causes their bodies to struggle and it can be fatal to them. It happens when a rabbit's internal body temperature gets too high and becomes dangerous.

Heatstroke is an emergency situation. Rabbits in particular are more likely to suffer as they are much smaller than cats or dogs and are more vulnerable to changes in temperature. Without first aid, heatstroke can cause your rabbit's organs to shut down and result in death.

 

What are the signs of heatstroke in rabbits?

There are physical signs you can look out for in your rabbits. These include:

  • drooling
  • taking short, quick breaths
  • acting very sleepy or lethargic
  • falling unconscious or having fits.

 

What should I do if I think my rabbit has heatstroke?

If you think one of your rabbits may be suffering from heatstroke phone your vet immediately. They will be able to give you advice.

You may be advised to cool your rabbit down. This should be done slowly so you don't send your rabbit into shock – another serious problem. You can cool a bunny down in the following ways:

  • move them into a cool, shady area out of the sun
  • use a cool, wet towel to dampen their fur. Don't pour water onto them directly to avoid shock
  • put them near a fan
  • let them drink small amounts of cool water.

Even if your rabbit seems to make a full recovery after cooling them down, take them to the vet so they can check for any delayed problems or lasting damage.

 

How to stop heatstroke

None of us want our rabbits to get ill. You can take some simple steps to help stop your rabbits from getting too warm:

  • provide plenty of shade, whether they're kept indoors our outdoors
  • consider moving their hutch or run to a cooler area of the house/garden
  • make sure they have plenty of fresh water at all times and make sure you top it up throughout the day
  • keep them well groomed, especially if they have long fur
  • freeze a bottle of water, wrap it in a cloth and pop it in with your rabbit. They can snuggle up near it to keep cool.

During the summer, it's also important to check your rabbit twice a day for flystrike, which can also be fatal. As long as you keep an eye on your bunnies and give them options to get out of the heat, they should be able to enjoy the summer without getting too hot. If you'd like to know more about heatstroke, take a look at our heatstroke page which covers heatstroke in all kinds of pets.